Choosing a watchmaker can be a confusing process for many collectors, as it can be
difficult to judge a watchmaker's competence and ability. When choosing a doctor,
auto mechanic, or accountant, you always look for an MD, ASE Certification, or a
CPA, in combination with a solid reputation. You should do the same for your watchmaker
to assure that you are getting top-notch professional service.
There are only a few professional certifications that a watchmaker can get in the
United States. These are available through the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute
(AWCI) in Harrison, Ohio. The two certifications that apply to mechanical watch repair
are Certified Watchmaker (CW) and Certified Master Watchmaker (CMW), with the CMW
being the more difficult of the two. There is an extensive testing process which
needs to be completed successfully before acquiring either one of these certifications.
The test includes a 600 question written examination, the repair of two wristwatches,
and the manufacture of 2 watch parts to a very high standard. My testing procedure
took about 3 months in total. In 1999 (when I took my exam), only 2 watchmakers in
the entire United States earned status as a CMW.
The group of genuinely certified watchmakers is very small, and sometimes people
use similar sounding (but not genuine) terminology in their advertisements. Take,
for example, someone who claims to be a "Master Watchmaker". It sounds official,
but it is merely a self-appointed title. There is no official body in the US which
grants such a title, and to an educated consumer it should be meaningless. To help
clarify such problems, the American Watchmaker's Institute recommends a specific
notation for one's certifications, such as Certified Master Watchmaker, AWCI. For
more information on the certification process, see the AWCI's web site at www.awci.com.
I also have a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, which demonstrates an
understanding of mechanics, mathematics, theory, and excellent problem-solving skills.
I am also a published author in various newsletters and magazines. I have written
for International Wristwatch Magazine. One or more of these articles is available
on my web site, under the 'recently published articles' page. I have also contributed
to Bruce Shawkey's Vintage Wrist Watch Report, the newsletter of the Society of Military
Horologists, the newsletter of the International Watch & Jewelry Guild, and the Horological
Times, a publication of the American Watchmaker's-Clockmaker's Institute.
Here is a sampling of some of the things my customers have to say about my work.
These are just a few of the many letters I have received. For before/after photos,
see the 'restoration photos' section.
"Tom: EXCELLENT WORK! Your diligence and knowledge of vintage watches really shows!
No doubt be sending you some more stuff." Bruce, Wisconsin.
"Breitling just arrived - while not a word my generation uses on a regular basis,
I think ‘awesome’ pretty well says it all." Dan, Nevada.
"I am extremely pleased with the work you did. The watch looks great! Thank you for
your expertise and attention to every detail. You are the most honest watchmaker
I have dealt with; you now have a customer for life." Angel, Illinois.
"The Longines arrived and it seems you did an excellent job overhauling it." Michael,
"You did it. The Omega arrived beautifully protected and has been right on time...
It’s nice to know there are people around with skill & integrity."Bob, Massachusetts.
Tom Gref - PO Box 69151 - Tucson, AZ - 85737 - 520.818.3382